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Traveling with Roman

Safe Travels

MACAU | Wednesday, 27 June 2018 | Views [202]

Throughout my travels in Europe and Asia, and yes, even throughout the United States, I have encountered pickpockets, scammers, aggressive beggars and even organized crime rings. None of this keeps me from getting out of my comfort zone and seeking out new and exotic destinations.

A long weekend in Macau gave me and my wife a chance to enjoy some of the best food on the planet, taste the legendary Portuguese egg tarts that are offered at nearly every streetcorner, and visit some of the wonderful casinos and play a little Baccarat. I learned to play Fan Tan. We stayed at the Hotel Sintra and ate fresh oysters at the buffet and enjoyed a carafe of house-made sangria.

We walked through Senado Square, where the sidewalks are adorned with beautifully ornate Portuguese pavement, and there, two men came up from behind me. One man carried a briefcase, which he positioned directly next to my right pants pocket so as to block their crime from public view. The other quickly tried to grab my wallet. I felt his light touch going into my pocket and yelled, turned around, and my wife yelled even louder and they ran away, but it was a close call. I learned two things from the episode: First, to be more aware of my surroundings, and second, to put my wallet in my shoulder bag, which I wear over the shoulder with my hand on the flap.

I never let that heightened awareness spoil my fun, though, and I look forward to my next trip to Macau. However, my awareness of pickpockets did result in an unusual encounter with a rogue chicken.

Back in Bangkok where we were living, we enjoyed a local pad thai restaurant. It was one of those side-street, shop-house sort of restaurants, a little primitive, run by an older lady who lived in back of the restaurant who made the best pad thai in the neighborhood. There were live chickens in cages, and a few of them running loose, and sometimes you could see them pecking around the restaurant's floor. I sat on a hard plastic stool at our table enjoying my noodles when I felt something at my back pocket. Remembering my episode in Macau, I reached around immediately, expecting to grab a pickpocket's hand – but there were no pickpockets that day, it was a chicken pecking at my backside! The pickpockets in Macau may have gotten away without consequence for their attempted thievery, but as for the chicken, I knew I would be eating him the next day.

I've picked up a few tips along the way for staying safe.

Rule number one: Don't look like a tourist, and don't be afraid to ask for help. In Krakow, we were sitting at an outdoor café in Rynek Głowny, enjoying the sights and sipping cold beer. I guess they must have heard me speaking English, and maybe I was dressed a little too upscale. I was immediately targeted by a group of aggressive beggars, led by a middle-aged woman who spoke broken English with a Romani accent, asking for money. Thinking I could make them go away, I gave her a few złoty, but it only encouraged her to beg for more. She held a ragged little girl out in front of her to gain sympathy. Eventually the maître d' came out and I motioned for him to come over, and he chased them away.

They weren't all quite so annoying, though. There was an accordion-playing street musician I would walk by every day and I would always toss him a few coins, and we would chat sometimes. When he saw me coming, he would say in a friendly way, "Hey, Yankee!" And then he would start playing "Yankee Doodle" on his accordion.

Rule number two: Leave the expensive jewelry at home. My wife, like most women, loves her diamonds, and probably has more carats than Bugs Bunny. But in a poor country, flashing those stones is asking for trouble. We left the high-end rings, necklaces and earrings at home, and got some nice-looking, but inexpensive jewelry online at In Season Jewelry. We selected several items for around ten to twenty dollars each, and they looked great, and we weren't worried about theft.

Rule number three: Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention if somebody is getting too close to you on the street. My vigilance in Macau prevented my wallet from being lifted (and, prevented a chicken-pecking in Bangkok!).

Rule number four: Don't let the pickpockets and thieves spoil your fun. Go to new places, see new things. Be bold. If you want to go somewhere, just go, and don't let reports of a few petty thieves keep you from seeing the world.

Tags: hotel sintra, in season jewelry, travel safety

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